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Maxime, Charlotte, and Pol Roussel:

"We want to bring FAIA products to the Belgian market"

Since late 2023, Faiafood food concepts have also been available in several Belgian supermarkets. Along with the now well-known purees, marinades (Quick Taste), and ginger shots (Quick Shot), 'Quick Start' (a mix of cut, fresh onions, garlic, and ginger) has been added. "The Netherlands is slightly further along regarding ready-to-use products, but we see great potential in Belgium with our Faiafood brand products," begins Maxime Roussel from Roussel Onions. This Belgian company works with Dutch companies Sawari Fresh, Biesheuvel Garlic, and Waterman Onions under the name Faiafood.

"The products are already more established in the Netherlands." Maxime is the youngest of the Roussel family and recently joined the family business. "We're already in some Dutch supermarkets, but in late 2023, we'd started with three Belgian supermarkets. That began with a test phase to see how that market would react to the different concepts. But we also wanted to see which products sell quickly, in practice, and which ones less so. We organized various cooking demos, where we were present to engage with customers," she says.

"These are indeed products that still require some explanation," adds Charlotte Roussel. "Some sell more easily than others; for instance, the garlic, ginger, and mixed purees aren't necessarily widely available in stores yet. Then, explaining their uses in the kitchen at tastings is great fun. Clients are immediately convinced."

"That activation is still needed, but there's plenty of enthusiasm. That's also why we'll soon be at the Tavola trade show in Belgium (ed. March 17-19) with Roussel Onions. We want to demonstrate Faiafood to the Belgian professional public again. This event is nearby, and we have strong local roots, so it's wonderful to attend," says Charlotte.

Maxime: "I recently visited our partner Sawari Fresh in the Netherlands, and we visited a supermarket. Convenience cooking products, like pre-cut vegetables, are well integrated. We believe our type of products have a bright future in Belgium, too. You can use these to prepare healthy, homemade meals with less preparation. That's perfect for many people who have less and less time. In this way, we can still cook with healthy products."

Quick Start
Faiafood offers various purees, marinades, and shots based on the four partners' main products: onions, fresh garlic, and ginger. They recently added the small 'Quick Start' packaging. "It's a new pillar in our Faiafood range, where freshly cut onions, garlic, and ginger are packaged in bags up to 300 grams," explains Maxime.

"These quantities are based on what an average family needs for a single dish that uses one or more of these staples. In Belgium, we cut the onions, garlic, and ginger for 'Quick Start'. We already had the know-how of in-house processing, but we had to adjust our machines to process these small retail packs."

Markets-wise, Faiafood is exploring the possibility of exporting these fresh products to France and the United Kingdom as well. "I think we can best distinguish ourselves in the fresh products arena where quality is vital. If the product has to travel far, its quality can affected. However, we're sure - if we get the product from A to B quickly via a short chain - we can offer better quality than what's currently in stores. For the long-lasting products, such as purees and ginger shots, we're also looking further at the rest of Europe," Charlotte explains.

Price difference in quality
Roussel Onions also still considers its options with the large packaging of peeled and cut onions it supplies to the industry. That is traditionally the company's mainstay and remains its most essential pillar. "We see these as two different entities within our company," continues Pol Roussel.

"On the one hand, we can approach customers through Faiafood via its small retail packaging. On the other, we still work with large packaging under Roussel Onions for industrial clients and wholesalers. We've supplied these industrial buyers with freshly cut onions for 25 years. They have no need for packaging under 500 grams. That continues to hold a large share for us."

The company patriarch does see an increasingly a greater challenge in the onions' different qualities. "It's easy to find good quality, but the price difference between that, lesser, and poor quality onions is growing," Pol explains. "That means the final product quality differences are becoming more prominent. The question then is, which raw material do you buy to remain competitive?

"Do you buy cheap onions and offer them cheaper or stick with quality? That dilemma is increasingly coming up, and many parties opt for cheaper prices at the expense of quality. We want to stick with the quality our clientele expects from us. That sometimes costs a little more, but our customers, first and foremost, want good onions. That's how we keep standing out," Pol concludes.

For more information:
Maxime, Charlotte and Pol Roussel
Roussel Onions
221 Ieper Street
8560, Moorsele, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 56 50 53 06

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